For the first time since June 2019, a development camp commenced at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey.
While the 2021 edition has fewer players compared to past summers, it still features some of the Flyers' top prospects. This year's development camp feels like an appetizer before training camp, which is around the corner next month.
The action kicked off Sunday and runs through Wednesday.
Let's get into five observations from Day 1.
The speed of Samu
Samu Tuomaala's pure offensive strengths were well-suited for many of the drills on Day 1.
In his first showing at Skate Zone, the Finnish winger offered a glimpse of why the Flyers are high on his upside. Tuomaala can really whip around and he accelerates in open ice. He loves to score and put his shot on display. During a 3-on-3 drill, he found the back of the net with a wrist shot and earned a fist bump from beloved former Flyer Danny Briere.
Tuomaala, the club's top 2021 draft pick (second round, 46th overall), is not very big and looks his age of 18. He's listed at 5-foot-10 and around 175 pounds. But he can move and there's a clear knack for scoring.
After playing in his native Finland, Tuomaala said he's coming to North America this season. He could crack AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley's roster or play at the junior level with the OHL's Sudbury Wolves. The OHL would seem like a good idea given he played mostly at the junior ranks in Finland and he'd see a bigger role against players closer to his size and age.
Shot to the future?
Tyson Foerster's shot is as advertised. It's advanced and he can pick his spots.
There's a reason why he had the immediate goal-scoring success as a 19-year-old with the Phantoms. Foerster, the club's 2020 first-round pick, had 17 points last season and finished second on Lehigh Valley with 10 goals in 24 games.
He's not afraid to mix it up, either. In a 3-on-3 session, Foerster made a hard play to the net past defenseman Jackson van de Leest, who is a 6-foot-7 camp invite. The big blueliner attempted to cut the gap in retreat and gave Foerster a slight shove in the back. Foerster didn't appreciate it and the two had some ensuing physical battles. Good competition.
In the last two drafts, the Flyers have used their top picks on shoot-first wingers: Foerster and Tuomaala. The Flyers hope both will continue to develop their all-around games so they can eventually show the offensive potential at the NHL level.
Roommates to teammates?
Two of the Flyers' top defensive prospects Cam York and Egor Zamula are rooming together during camp.
That probably wasn't a coincidence.
The Flyers likely want those two getting to know each other and pushing each other. There's a good chance they'll be teammates with the Phantoms to open the 2021-22 season and asked to do a lot on Lehigh Valley's blue line.
"Z's obviously a bigger guy, he's got really good gap control, he's got a big slap shot," York said Sunday. "We're actually roommates right now, which is kind of funny — he's a great guy off the ice, funny guy. I’m trying to learn from him just like he's trying to learn from me, so it's a good culture and we're starting to build a pretty good relationship here."
York, a push-the-pace defenseman from Anaheim Hills, California, utilizes his active stick and smarts in the defensive zone.
Zamula, a native of Chelyabinsk in Russia, is a smooth skater with a sharp first pass. During one drill, he made a nice defensive play to strip Morgan Frost in transition.
Frost often leads the way when a new drill begins. His game is loaded with skill and he's one of the leaders in camp.
After making the big club's roster as the 13th forward last season, Frost suffered a dislocated left shoulder in late January and underwent surgery in early February. The injury came in his second game of the year and ended his season.
"It definitely wasn't fun," Frost said Sunday. "I worked really hard and trained hard to make the team. I was really excited that I did make the team and I was getting an opportunity to play, so it was real tough timing and pretty unfortunate. But I'm glad with the procedure I went through because it's not going to happen again and now it feels pretty strong. One tough year, but looking to bounce back this year. I think I'm ready to go."
The 22-year-old playmaking center was skating in April and continued working his way back throughout the summer. He'll be pushing for a roster spot in a crowded bottom-six competition.
Tanner Laczynski, another bottom-six candidate, was on the ice and didn't seem overly limited. It was good to see him out there. The 24-year-old forward had right hip surgery in late April to repair a torn labrum, a procedure with a four-month recovery.
Laczynski participated in the forward drills but was not on the ice for the full-camp group session. The club is likely being cautious about not having Laczynski overdo it.
Wade Allison, who has an inside track to grab a spot in the Flyers' season-opening lineup after a successful audition last season, also did not skate in the joint session. The power forward goes so hard and low on his edges during drills that he slipped a few times. He clearly had a skate issue and was fine. As fans quickly learned last season, Allison gets after it.
Matthew Strome was forced to exit early after going down at the far end of the rink during a drill. He was able to head off on his own power but was covering his face area and attended to by trainers.
Zayde Wisdom was seen upstairs in an immobilized sling. He had shoulder surgery earlier this month.
Maksim Sushko is on the camp roster but was not seen on the ice during Day 1. Linus Sandin, who had to come in a day late because of visa issues, is expected to be on the ice Monday after missing Sunday's on-ice work.
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